Perhaps it's like this in any big city.  I don't know.  But when you're out and about here in Santiago, and you think of something you need, chances are decent that within 10 minutes you'll see someone selling that very thing.  Someone may even approach you trying to sell just what you were needing.  At La Vega, when the sun is out in full force, someone will be walking around selling hats.  When it's raining (which is almost never) people are selling umbrellas on the sidewalk.  When you're getting a blister from your new shoes, someone will walk by selling band-aids.  When you're digging in your purse for a pen, a disabled man in a wheelchair rolls up with a fist full of Bics.  (And yes, you can buy just one.)  When, on a cold winter morning, you're standing outside in the 1/2 mile-long line, waiting for the extranjeria office to open, someone is right there selling hot coffee to folks standing in line.  At a red light and realize your windshield is dirty?  Here comes a youth with a bucket and a squidgy!

Now, I don't want to give the impression that you can find anything you need or want here.  Maybe you can...at some price.  Some items (furniture, clothing, and shoes) tend to be cheaply made.  For example, we've found it difficult to find quality shoes unless we plan to pay first-world name brand retail prices (which we never did in the states).  For whatever reason, it seems that inferior quality items get sent to Latin America, and we have to really pay attention to make sure we're getting decent items.  Case in point: we bought some cheapie Converse-like high tops for Sudoku for about $15USD. A tear developed after one wearing and more actual holes quickly followed.  This is just one example of about five.

Some things are painless and inexpensive here.  Marathon got a new battery put in his watch inexpensively in a nearby shop.  The process was painless, unlike the current situation at Wal-mart's jewelry counter where they'll no longer open your watch and put the new battery in for you.  I had some good, inexpensive alternation work done on a pair of jeans too...

Back to the street vendors.  There are kiosks on busy street corners where you can buy sunglasses, a cool or hot drink, insoles for your shoes, or an empanada when you're hungry.  As I write, the sound of the knife-sharpener's whistle is coming through the window.  About once a week, a cheery penny-whistle-type sound can be heard coming from the sidewalk below.  It's a man with a rolling knife-sharpening rig.  Folks hear his whistle, come out of their apartment or business with their dull items, and they stand there and chew the fat while the man turns his pedaled grindstone.  Then he's off again, tooting his whistle as he rounds the next corner.

These little stands, these little businesses are everywhere.  Which brings me to my next post...